Spartans crank up for sectionals (with photo gallery)

If it’s mid-October, it must be time for the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ soccer team to get ser

If it’s mid-October, it must be time for the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ soccer team to get serious.

Underclassmen Meghan Malone and Morgan Burchhardt combined for the game’s only goal, and senior co-captains Kaita Albanese and Nicole Shively kept things organized in back as the Spartans edged Saratoga Springs, 1-0, Tuesday night in a Suburban Council game played on the turf at Union’s College Park.

“It’s that time of the year,” said Burnt Hills coach Brian Bold after his 9-3-0 team won its sixth straight game, snapped Saratoga’s 10-game unbeaten streak and avenged its only loss since opening the season 1-2-0. “We’re getting ready for sectionals, and we want to be playing well.”

Both teams were held to a handful of good chances, and Burchhardt, a 10th-grader, finished a cross from Malone, a freshman, 10 minutes into the second half.

“We talk about speed of play, speed of play, speed of play up top,” Bold said. “We play a ball out wide to Meghan, who gets her head up and plays that early ball we’re looking for. Morgan made a great diagonal run, she’s onside, it was a great-paced ball, she puts herself in, the keeper came off her line. I thought it was a great ball wide, a phenomenal ball to Morgan and a composed finish.”

Saratoga coach Adrienne Dannehy had a different take on the goal.

“It an was evenly played game, and it was going to come down to who was going to get a shot off, and which shot was going to go in,” she said. “Unfor­tunately, we got a bad call.”

Saratoga’s best chance came near the end of the first half, when soph­omore Cassidy Driscoll ripped a shot off the bottom of the crossbar.

“That was a great chance,” said Dannehy.

Albanese was pleased that the shot rebounded onto the playing field.

“Someone should have stepped up and denied the shot,” said Alb­anese. “We want to win the last five games, and we’re shooting for shutouts.”

The 8-2-2 Blue Streaks, with sen­ior standout Liz Rogan in goal, know shutouts, sporting seven through their first 12 games. Burchhardt’s goal was only the fifth permitted by Saratoga, which has not surrendered more than one in any game.

“When we played them before (a 2-1 loss 21⁄2 weeks ago) every ball from distance, she smothered,” Bold said of Rogan. “She’s very comfortable on her goal line. Those balls from 20 yards away are not going to beat her. We had to engage her. That’s the way we got our goal up there.”

Since their 1-2 start, the Spartans have knocked off some of the league’s top teams, all from Class AA enrollments, as they shoot for a seventh consecutive Class A sectional title.

“We got it organized, and we’ve been clicking. The kids understand the system, and we’ve got kids who are scoring goals for us,” said Bold. “We’ve knocked off Shenendehowa, Guilderland and Saratoga in the space of a few weeks. Those are very good wins for us against quality programs.”

Saratoga also has hopes of a deep postseason run. The Blue Streaks started eight underclassmen Tuesday, and their contributions have Saratoga in a four-way fight with Burnt Hills, Niskayuna and Shenendehowa for the Suburban Council North championship, and the No. 1 seed for the upcoming “AA” tournament.

“We’ve got some great young talented players,” said Dannehy, whose team plays at Shenendehowa on Thursday. “I just told them that they played hard, and they continue to need to play that hard.”

“Beating the bigger schools always gets us ready for sectionals,” said Albanese. “We know how hard we have to play when we play teams like Saratoga and Shenendehowa.

“We’re playing better right now. We moved Nicole back more into defense early in the year, and that’s helped.”

Categories: -Sports-, High School Sports

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